by Robert Johnson
I remember growing up in the middle of the crack
epidemic. There were times as a child I had to get on the floor
to avoid the bullets flying overhead. I felt the barrel of a gun
placed to my head, while the robber ran my coat, hat, and shoes
in the middle of a snowstorm. I used to find crack pipes around
my house. I would turn up the T.V. to drown out my parents
arguments. There were more than I could count, mostly over my
fathers claims of gambling away his paycheck. I knew what
the truth was, even the things they wouldnt suspect me of
knowing. As a child, I never felt safe. All my transformers
and GI Joe men carried pistols and when I grew up I wanted to
carry one too.
When I got older my friends started to die. There
was a time I thought I would never live to see twenty-one. I remember
my first burner. It was a .38 revolver. When I held it in my hand,
I felt safe. For the first time, now I had the power. I named
my pistol Trizzy and I used to carry it everywhere I went. Id
go to school just to show off what kind of firearm I was packing
for the day. But after Rizz got stabbed and killed in school they
installed metal detectors. After that, we had to stash our weapons
around the premises and hope no one saw us.
Not long after that, I was arrested for possession of a firearm
without a license. It was my first offense. I didnt have
a juvenile record, but because of the mandatory law, I still had
to serve prison time. I was scared. Id heard many tales
about men getting raped and the C.O.s beating inmates to
death. But when I got there, I realized that I knew everybody.
I saw dudes holding it down that I used to bully and I knew I
as going to be straight. And now, instead of being a minority,
I was part of the majority. I was offered jobs and was able to
take courses like parenting and creative writing.
But mainly, I wasnt on the street, so for
the first time, since I could remember, I didnt have to
worry about my safety. All I needed to do to be respected was
fight for myself with my fists and follow the inmate rules, but
I could be pretty sure that I wasnt going to get burned.
In jail I had time to think, to learn, to find the person who
I wanted to be, not the person that circumstances had made me
become. This was the kind of freedom that I never had when I was
by Frantz Blass
She was born to me
the second the silent
tip of the pen signed
She honorably has carried
my last name from the start
of her existence.
When shed cry, her tears
were my own.
Her blood pumps my blood.
Her innocence reaches me
like a native language
to a foreigner.
For since her birth,
I am the only father
she has ever known.
She sits at the edge
of the bed watching
her favorite T.V. show.
I pretend to sleep.
My eyes are only half-shut
to watch her.
I reach for physical traits
to prove heredity.
History haunts me.
Put it to rest,
I think for this moment
with my child.
I feel her kiss
my bald head,
whispering, Daddy, wake up.
by George Dale
On this last day of school I was looking, feeling,
and smelling great, had a dip in my hip, and a glide in my stride.
I was submerged in this life I chose, not fully aware of where
it would lead me. As a gambling man might say, Im
all in. The ripple effect had begun.
As I walked down Ziglers Street toward Dudley Station,
the Temptations wafted out of someones window. Ball
of Confusion. On cue, I fell right into step with them.
From where the music was coming, a fine-ass sister said, Get
down, Bro. So I added a little James Brown, pivot into a
bow, thanked her, and ask her her name and number all in a New
Nellie, she said. Nellie Washington
was her name. I didnt know her per-say, but her brother
sold coke with his fairy-ass-self. But Booker, her father, he
was a horse of a different color. A washed-up stick-up kid, holding
onto his reputation by riding around in a 65 Caddy collecting
protection money for the Campbell brothers. That was what the
word was on the street.
Mil, Frankie, and Ray-Ray exchanged pounds and whats
happenings. I asked Mil which way they were heading and
he said, Watertown. It was two oclock then.
Its kind of late, youll be fighting traffic
all the way.
Frankie said, its cool, and that there were a couple of
new joints having grand openings.
I said, I hear that.
Ray-Ray just laughed, asking where I got them green
lizards from? Mil started to laugh at me cause he knew I had small
feet. I wore size five, but no one made reptiles that small so
I had to get at least size seven, use inner soles, and stuff paper
in the toes. We all started to roll, I said, Fuck you, Mil.
He moved like Ali, throwing, shuffling, smiling, while saying,
You know youre my main man, Money Grip.
As usual, they were laid-out to the Tee! Milton
was wearing a white-knitted shirt, monogrammed with MT on the
collars, khaki brown slacks with tied-up brown gators. Frankie
had on a rainbow colored bly unbuttoned with a white tank-top
underneath, off-white trousers, and blue turtle kicks. Ray had
on an all light-blue outfit, with some navy suede shoes. So as
they stepped toward a rented Grenada, I said, Later.
Officially, it wasnt summer yet, but it was
the last day of school and Dudley Station was the spot to be.
Broads from every part of the city were there and I was about
to come up, but there was one in particular I wanted to see. Lindy
Christmas, but everyone called her Lucky. I was affected by her
in a way I couldnt understand. If looks were a crime she
would be Forever. Id heard that Luckys
mom was a top shelf ho and she was a trick baby. Lucky had a honey-toned
complexion and short, curly, black hair. Funny type color eyes
that made you feel they looked right through you. We always greeted
each other with the utmost respect.
Just about then, all I could see were lips moving, but heard the
screech of the elevated Orange Line Train pulling into the station,
sounding as if it were Godzilla in another death match with Rodan!
I stepped in front of the Clock Tavern as Scottie
the Detective came out. I said, Nice day, Officer.
As usual, he said, Go fuck yourself. The Clock was
where all the black officers hung out. As long as they were off
you could go in there and sell hot shit. I kept walking, laughing
at Scotties response. He wasnt a bad cop or an asshole,
he just said some crazy shit at times.
The Washington bus was pulling into the station
and I saw Eddie, Jo-Jo, and Brown. Eddie owed me a dub, but I
doubted if he was holding my ins. I didnt want to have to
get on his ass for twenty dollars. Just then I heard, Grip.
Someone was calling me from inside Spinnellys. It was CJ.
CJ was a little older than I, but as long as I could
remember he was the best-dressed bro in Boston. Everyday, wed
be saying, You see what Charlie was wearing? And no
one had to ask, Which Charlie?
On this particular day he was playing like he was Arthur Ashe.
All white tennis outfit trimmed in red with his initials on both
collars, racket and bag hanging on his shoulder. We had always
been cool and cordial to each other, but never had, nor did any
type of business together, so I was on point for the bullshit.
He opened the tennis bag and showed me some swag: silk ties, shirts,
and some ascots. CJ motioned to me to come near and said, Give
me half a note.
I said, Forty cents.
Fifty, was all that was said, so I just stepped saying
Every school was represented there. It was standing room only,
but I was looking for that one person and I hadnt seen her
yet. Just then, at the corner of my peripheral, Red Head Windy
came into view. She was Luckys sidekick. As she turned right,
coming right towards me, I rounded so that my back was facing
My mackin was going to be by proxy, whether Windy was down
or not! As she stepped closer I could hear her high-pitched voice.
Turning on a dime, I was eye-level with her breasts. Immediately,
my eyes reached hers and we exchanged greetings as Windy came
to a provocative stance in front of me with her girlfriends at
All eyes were on me as introductions were made. Red started with
Chloe. I had seen her around. She said, Hi, with a
mild voice and bright-ass smile. Next was Sandy. We had known
each other for years and were Kool and the Gang.
Whats up, Grip?
Nothing but the rent.
I heard that.
Leslie was the stuck-up type broad. We just looked hard at one
another. Windy cut to the chase, sensing the tension. Have
you seen my girl? she said.
I played like Mickey the Dunce.
Red wasnt buying what I was selling. Grip, you need
to stop the bullshit and come on with the come on.
No, I have not seen Lucky! But since you brought her up,
I would like to kick a little something-something to her!
Please, my brother, spare me. Every dude in the city at
my girl. You know shes not with any of these dudes that
are hustlers, players, or whatever theyre calling themselves!
Red, my ass, she said. We been knowing each
other since we were in our PJs. Youre cool as a fan,
but I know you. We all started to laugh.
Ok, if I see Lucky, where are you going to be at?
Well be at Freddie Parkers.
Excerpt from a Novel by
More than two thousand people filled
the churchs main sanctuary. The hallway was crowded too.
Dudes who normally didnt wear suits wore them on this day.
And the females were dressed like they were going to the hottest
club on a Saturday night, pumps and skinny jeans, and strapless
dresses that stopped above the knees. Half of them cried, hugging
each other, half of them stared at one another, mean-mugging,
blaming everybody else but the right person.
There were groups that wore white-tees
brandishing the face of a fallen soldier. Others wore buttons
on shirts and hats with the same face, on them, while the younger
crowd took it to the extreme with air-brushed Dicke suits, turning
themselves into walking billboards. They had all come out to see
this person who was clearly loved by so many. Small conversations
of, How did it happen? Wheres his babies
mothers? And who just seen him last? all echoed
through the church. And the majority of the congregation skimmed
through the color and black and white obituaries from beginning
to end. Then the choir began accompanying the soloist who sang
His Eyes Are On the Sparrow. Loud cries of, Not
my baby! and Why him? came from the first four
rows in the middle aisle, and made people cry more.
The preacher stood at the pulpit wearing
a full-length black robe. Everybody but the family please
stand and lets pray, he began. In the name of
Jesus who watches over us day in and day out, guide us as a whole
on this day of mourning. He continued and got deeper in
prayer as his rhythm matched the organist. Let everybody
say Amen, he said ending the prayer. Bowed heads rose as
the preacher overlooked the congregation. The preacher, whod
known him since he was a kid, began the eulogy. Here lies
a child of God who had it all, but fell victim to the Devils
works, who could have been anything he wanted to be if he put
his mind to it. It only took him twenty minutes to describe
who he was and what he couldve been. When the preacher was
done, he wiped the white creamy mucus that rested in the corners
of his mouth with a bright white handkerchief.
Yes lord! Preach
preacher, and Amen, came from all the holy rollers
in the building. In my closing, the preacher said,
staring at the dudes in the church revenge isnt the
answer. Yall need to get right with Jesus, he said.
Then he motioned for the funeral director.
The director was a small man wearing
an all black suit and wing tip shoes. He had receding salt and
pepper hair. Hed pinned a white carnation by his matching
handkerchief. He removed the spray of red roses from the coffin
top and took a key out of his suit jacket. He inserted the key
in the hole, turned it clockwise and opened the full-length lid.
He folded back the pearly white cover from the body as the family
Ramello was late. All he could see
was the raised lid. So he joined the back of the line, listening
to females yell and dudes curse with no church etiquette. Look
at him, look at him, two females said, bawling over the
body. Ramello stood right behind them and looked on. The dead
mans wife observed the situation and didnt try to
disguise her anger. Before it could get ugly, the ushers, dressed
all in white, got wind, and escorted the females away.
Ramellos feet felt stuck to the
ground. He could see the mans nose and the tips of his black
shoes. Finally, he took one step and another, then took off his
Dolce & Gabbana shades and looked down. The man had the same
Gucci suit as his and the loafers were Gucci like his too. His
hands were crossed on his chest and on the back of his left one
was the tattoo R8T, the same tattoo as Ramellos. That was
when Ramello looked at the dead mans face and found he was
looking at his own.
by Joshua Silver
The euphoria is nothing
Next to the terror
Of watching the battery acid
Eat through his arm.
Fucked up thing to do
To a junkie
Just trying to get straight.
Just as wrong
As throwing the brick
That split him
From ear to eyebrow.
Twenty-seven stitches it takes
To close that gap.
But he recovers
And still he knows the game.
He takes from
Want him to
So he is a patchwork
Of skin grafts.
I wonder if
He will continue
Piece by piece.
Author, Peggy Rambach, runs creative writing workshops in community education settings for the Healing Arts in health care, correctional facilities, ESL programs and immigrant support centers as well as offering assistance with lesson plans in professional development presentations for middle and high school teachers. She teaches memoir writing in medical schools as part of the curriculum in Narrative Medicine and Medical Humanities. Ms. Rambach is conveniently located for teachers, students and participants from throughout New England including the Vermont (VT) cities of Bennington, Burlington and Montpelier, the Maine (ME) cities of Portland, Gardener, Kennebunkport and York, the New Hampshire (NH) cities of Portsmouth, Concord, Manchester, Dover, Nashua and Rochester, the Massachusetts (MA) cities of Boston, Newburyport, Amherst, North Hampton, Salem, Beverly, Lawrence, Lowell, Haverhill, Gloucester, Plymouth, New Bedford, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Rockport, Hyannis, and Falmouth, the Rhode Island (RI) cities of Providence and Newport and the Connecticut (CT) cities of New Haven and Hartford.